Ambushed By An Invisible Brigade
Copyright 2009 by Gayle Thawley
Growing up in the Washington, D.C. Area afforded an insight into a side of our government few outside the Beltway would imagine.
Only the thumping of heavy rain upon the island of black umbrellas broke the silence as the frail body in the white box was lowered into the ground. Certainly there could not have been a more perfect resting place than under a sheltering great oak tree overlooking the domino-like tombstones within Arlington National Cemetery. Awestruck by the vision, I could not help but reflect that the encircling losses of our nation’s heroes made the service I was attending nothing short of a sacrilege.
The ceremonial observance for my departed friend was brief with few words spoken. There were no tears. There were not even any prayers for how would one pray for a duck? Still, the dozen teenage mourners, all clad in black, properly paid their respect for an Easter present whose young life ended all too soon. Gently patting the newly completed grave, the son of the cemetery’s caretaker, John, first broke the solemnity declaring with a grin, “It‘s a Federal offense to desecrate this cemetery punishable by a $10,000 fine. You’d better hope we don’t get caught.” What? $10,000 for burying a duck? My parents would most certainly kill me. I wish I knew then that the instigator of the funeral for my little pink duck would go on to follow in his father’s footsteps to become the Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery. Had I been cognizant that our act would not alter our futures I would not have spent countless hours in fear as I did.
My fearful knowledge of Washington’s veiled world justifiably stemmed from first-hand experiences with my many friends whose parents were in the military or worked for our government. One in particular, Sam, the son of the Post Commander at Ft. Myers Army Base in Arlington, Virginia, first innocently opened my eyes to an underworld I would rather have left to fiction in the summer of my 16th year.
As in a Hollywood script, I was overcome by a sense of foreboding from the moment my friend climbed the lowest step of the historical, white, two-story home that warm June day. The two statuesque soldiers clad in full Nazi uniforms had not even blinked an eye as their uninvited guest entered the military compound of Lincoln Rockwell‘s American Nazi Party. The longer I sat in wait in my car, the more my mind ran rampant. Where’s Sam? What has happened to him? Should I make an effort to retrieve him?
Just as I positioned my hand to open the car door, Sam exited the subversive landmark, and bounded down the steep steps with a smile on his face. It was not until he was safely seated within my car that I finally breathed a sigh of relief. Waving brochures in my face, the reckless teenager laughed uncontrollably declaring the Nazis thought that they had a new recruit. Little did they know, the whole visit was nothing more than a joke to their seventeen year old visitor.
A full description of all of the happenings filled the scant minutes from the home of the Nazis to the Northern Virginia home of the U. S. Army. In contrast to the military compound we had just left, the secure military installation we were about to enter was closed to all but military personnel and their guests. As we pulled up to the red brick guard house, a soldier, seemingly straight from a recruiting poster, recognized my passenger and waved us forward without hesitation.
My sense of foreboding waned as we made our way past the Officers’ Club to the row of traditional brick Officers’ homes which lined the parade grounds. The car had barely come to a stop when, much to our surprise, Sam’s mother came running toward us screaming, “What are you doing going to Lincoln Rockwell’s home? Your father has already been called to the Pentagon for questioning. Get into the house.”
What? How did she know where Sam had been? After all, it hadn’t been more than five minutes since we were there. Without a backward glance, Sam dutifully got out of my car and scurried into his home with his mother ranting all of the way. Driving home, I asked myself once again, how did the woman know where Sam had been? We were in my car. How did anyone recognize Sam in my car? The only logical conclusion was that the surveillance was not focused on the home of the American Nazi Party and the cars that stopped there, but rather, the surveillance was focused on Sam. Undeniably, we had been ambushed by an invisible brigade.
From that moment on, I found myself driving with one eye on the road and one eye on my rear view mirror patrolling for a shadow. Sure enough, just days later my vigilance detected another tracker. “We’re being followed! There‘s a black sedan making every turn we make.” My passenger, and best friend, Barbara, quickly turned to see for herself. Maneuvering my gold Buick convertible down two obscure side streets proved that the plain, black car was, indeed, trailing us. Why? Why were we being followed? Barbara’s father wasn’t a high ranking military officer. Instead, he worked at the U. S. Treasury Department.
Unable to lose the tail, we pulled into Barbara’s driveway where her father was washing his car. The black sedan continued, without hesitating, down the street.
Visibly shaken, we both babbled on about our unnerving experience. Laughter, Barbara’s father actually responded with laughter. Realizing we were not amused, he quickly broke into an explanation. It seems that dear Dad had told his daughter that he had been promoted but failed to explain that he was promoted to working with the plates used to print our money. The man further failed to tell my friend that because of his new position, every member of his family would be followed to prevent the kidnapping of a family member for ransom of the plates. Yet another friend under surveillance?
During the months and years that followed my finely tuned antenna signaled countless sightings of government agents. Some openly escorted me while walking my Scottie passed Chief Justice Warren Burger’s home, while others questioned me when I had a flat tire in front of the Kennedy compound on Chain Bridge Road. Many happenings were far more discreet, yet, to my increasingly attuned eye, clearly visible.
Undoubtedly, my most haunting covert experience occurred while I was home from college in June of ‘72 when a strong desire to visit my old haunts took me to my all-time favorite spot, a scenic overlook along Spout Run Parkway. I could have sat for hours with my little black Scottie perched on my lap soaking-in the beauty of Washington had my pleasure not been interrupted by a black Cadillac which pulled in to my right followed almost immediately by a golden Jaguar XKE which pulled in to my left.
Neither adjacent vehicle would have been of any consequence were it not for the Stetson hat and sunglasses worn by both drivers. Granted, it was an unusually cool summer day, but it was quite peculiar to see anyone adorning such an out-of-season Stetson hat. The oddity was heightened when the Cadillac’s driver exited his vehicle wearing a belted London Fog as he dumped his trash in the waste receptacle that flanked the overlook’s three foot tall rock barrier and returned to his car.
Wrapped in brown paper tied with string, the inch thick package looked far more like a mailing than trash. The old adage, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, seemingly rang true as the gentleman in the Jaguar exited his car, also clad in a belted raincoat, walked to the same trash can and picked up the suspicious package. That was it! My covert activities radar kicked in an ominous warning much like a fire alarm orders evacuation. It was not until some time later, when the news about Watergate made the headlines, that I recalled the mysterious affair at the overlook. Had I watched the passing of some infamous documents taken from the Democratic National Committee’s office within one of Washington’s most luxurious towers?
Or . . . Had my insider’s knowledge of Washington’s veiled world learned with Sam tainted my every experience? Was it possible that I saw papers of the utmost importance to a Presidency being delivered via a trash can? Was my notion fact or was it fiction?
Since first being ambushed by an invisible brigade, I, for one, have believed that, within the power structure of our nation’s capital, ANYTHING is possible. Documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s office within Watergate were indeed passed from a Cadillac to a Jaguar XKE.
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